When an employee in California or elsewhere pursues an employment discrimination case, it may fall under Section 1981 or under Title VII. While both laws are similar, Congress and the Supreme Court have considered them to be distinct from each other. The major difference between the two statutes is that Section 1981 prohibits blatant discrimination while Title VII prohibits discrimination even if there was no intent to discriminate.
The main difference between the two statutes is that Section 1981 only applies to race discrimination. Title VII applies protections to employees based on gender, religion and other characteristics in addition to race. However, these are other significant differences that employees should consider when choosing which law to pursue a case under. For instance, Section 1981 allows workers up to four years to pursue a claim while Title VII allows up to 300 days.
There is no need for an EEOC charge to file a suit under Section 1981. There is no cap on the amount of punitive damages a person may collect in a Section 1981 case while someone filing a Title VII case may be limited to $300,000 in punitive damages. It is important to note that there is no limit in a Title VII case to how much back or front pay a person may receive.
If an employer violates employment law, it may be possible for an affected employee to seek relief. An employment law attorney will point out that California has its own set of anti-discrimination laws which may in some instances provide broader forms of relief than the applicable federal statutes.